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Reconciling The Tension In Joy

person standing in front of an orange sunset with their arms stretched out and up in worship of God
December 11, 2022


This word and its concept is one I’ve wrestled with for a LONG time. The reason for the wrestle? Well, in the dictionary, joy is described as feelings of happiness and excitement, yet the Bible says in Nehemiah 8:10 that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Two opposing explanations, it seems. Feelings and emotions that can fly away like the wind, but strength that gives a sense of solid steadiness. The more I’ve considered it, both of these are needed to experience joy. When we see joy referenced throughout Scripture, it definitely gives the impression that our feelings can and should be stirred when we’re encountering a moment that is incredibly breath-taking while also finding steadiness when our world is rocking.

When the angels visited the shepherds, they said they were bringing “good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” This news stirred all the feelings in the shepherds, and they were filled with joy (excitement) as they ran to Bethlehem to see the Messiah.

In Philippians 4:13, the Apostle Paul says, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” It’s a verse we’ve taken and used as a way of saying, “I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to. I can accomplish anything I want.” The full context of what the Apostle Paul was saying is that he’s learned the secret to being able to do anything is joy in the form of contentment. He’s experienced poverty, been in jacked-up situations, been in great situations, and what he’s learned is how to be good no matter what’s going on around him and in him.

The external has not impacted him the way others looking at his situation would think it would have because he’s learned to be content. The only way he’s been able to make it through these extreme lows and highs is this: Jesus. The key to unlocking that deep-seated joy we experience in both happiness and hardship is found in the person of Jesus alone.

In joy, we have the “both /and.” Joy is happiness and excitement, and strength and contentment. There is great joy when we look around and see all the incredible things the Lord has done, and there’s deep-seated joy where we can face any trial because we trust the Lord and believe He is our strength.

Jesus’ physical presence was vital, why joy was called upon. The world was restless, desperately needing a settled-ness. When Jesus hit the scene, He put Himself in our position while at the same time having all the strength of Heaven to bring us what we needed to fill in the blank spaces.

The excitement and anticipation for a savior who could put the broken pieces back together, rejoin the human heart to its creator, and bring all of Heaven’s strength back to Earth could absolutely be felt. It’s what we wanted and needed. Jesus bridges the tension of joy.

Joy to the world, contentment to the world, happiness to the world, strength to the world… the key to the world is that the Lord has come! All that we’ve been aching for is now here.

Jesus is here, and that is good news of great joy!


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